Understanding the Different Types of Fishing Reels

If you’re a frequent recreational angler, it’s likely that you already know what reels are and how they work. With so many different types of reel options on the market, you might think to yourself, “Does the reel I use really matter?”

The short answer is, yes. Why? Because each of the fishing reel types is manufactured for a particular purpose and kind of usage. Not all the different types of fishing reels are created equal, so it’s critical to understand what reels are designed for certain kinds of fishing so you can make the most out of each angling excursion.

For an in-depth look at the primary fishing reel types, how they work, and how to pick the right choice for you, keep on reading. The type of reel you should use really depends on many factors. 

Spincast reels

The first of the different types of fishing reels for anglers are spincast reels. Think of these as starter reels, as they are the first kind children or beginner anglers might use. The spincast reel is one of the most cost-effective option on the market, simple to use, and a fantastic choice for beginners to work with.

Spincast reels feature a push button to release, with fair casting precision. A spincast reel is also very easy to detangle as needed.

There a few downsides to spincast reels to consider. First off, the spincast reel doesn’t offer much by way of line capacity because it is pretty small, so you won’t be able to cast great distances. 

Second, you won’t be able to fish for very heavy game fish with a spincast reel, because it’s not designed to support very heavy weights. Use a spincast reel for small fish though, and it can serve you well for many angling trips to come.

Baitcasting reels

Baitcasting reels are among the most widely popular fishing reel  types on the market because they don’t sport a line twist when you make a cast. Plus, they provide the angler with heightened casting power to cover greater distances. You can select baitcasting reels in both lightweight and heavier specifications as you require, depending on your target fish. 

Baitcasting reels also offer enhanced user control and are an ideal pick for fishing large game. The only real downside with baitcast reels is that it takes some time to learn the proper method to handle them with finesse. However, with some time, patience, and practice, anyone can learn to use a baitcasting reel like a seasoned pro. Baitcast reels are further categorized into two main types:

  • Low-Profile Baitcasting reels — These are ergonomically friendly, very light, and easy to maneuver, making them a great option for beginner and seasoned anglers alike. You can catch an array of game with low-profile reels, which also cuts down line twist.
  • Round Baitcasting reels — These baitcasting reels have bigger spools so you can hold greater quantities of line and cast long distances. 

Spinning reels

If you’ve been considering a baitcaster vs spinning reel, spinning reels are the option many anglers select for versatility, ease of use, and a quality feel. You cast a spinning reel by overturning the metal bail wire to release the line, before flipping the wire down to secure the line.

The only downside with picking a spinning vs casting rod is that spinning reels sometimes release the lure too soon. A spinning reel spins while you retrieve your line, which is where the name comes from. Another consideration for baitcasting vs spinning is that using a spinning reel is pretty simple and easy to learn. They also tend to be pretty cost-effective to boot. 

Surf fishing reels

You can use either spinning reels or baitcasting reels to go surf fishing, and it is really a matter of personal preference. Spinning reels for surf fishing could be a better option for beginners because they are versatile, have better rates of retrieval, and feel very light. Surf reels need to be able to hold up against rough surf conditions, including the sand and sun.

The best surf fishing reels sport graphite, anodized aluminum, or a hybrid of the two materials with stainless steel ball bearings to ward off corrosion. Surf fishing reels should also support plenty of fishing line for precise casts. You want to pick a surf fishing reel that can support a range of artificial lures along with cut and live baits for all types of angling pursuits.

Offshore reels

Offshore reels are incredibly sturdy and can come in the form of either spinning reels or baitcasting reels.  reels tend to be more expensive because they are manufactured to hold up against rough offshore conditions that would easily destroy other types of reels. 

Trolling reels

 Also known as a ‘casting reel,’ a trolling reel is ideal for off-shore or deep sea fishing. These types of fishing reels are quality choices both for bottom fishing for large game in the ocean or in deep lake waters as you prefer.

If you opt for a trolling reel, the best models are designed with machined aluminum or sturdy graphite, along with a multi-disc drag mechanism and extensive line capabilities. A good trolling reel needs to not only support more fishing line but larger fish. These reels come in lever drag or star designs.

A helpful feature to look out for if you opt for a trolling reel is a dual-speed component that allows you to transition from battling heavy-duty fish like marlin to cranking them up from the water’s bottom by activating the lever.

How to select the right type of fishing reel for your angling needs

 If you are brand new to angling, a spincasting reel will be your best bet. It is super easy to maneuver and doesn’t backlash or tangle much, if at all, so you won’t have to struggle with your line when you’re trying to learn the ropes. They also work great with a wide range of fishing rods.

 If you have intermediate angling abilities, a spinning reel is a fantastic option that allows you more room to work with and enhanced precision. Spinning reels have a definite learning curve, but once you have some experience, you can learn how to use them fairly quickly.

 For the most seasoned of experienced anglers, baitcasting reels are the premium option. They support much heavier lines and give you heightened angling power to catch large game fish.

Whatever your level of angling experience might be, there is most certainly a reel on the market to meet your needs. When selecting your reel, make sure it complements your rod well and that you are comfortable casting and maneuvering it to get the most out of your angling trips. 

FAQs About Different Types of Fishing Reels

What are the differences between a spinning and a bait casting reel?

Spinning reels are the most common type of fishing reel and generally feature a fixed spool under the rod with a revolving bail that helps to cast and retrieve line. Bait casting reels, on the other hand, have an open spool at the top of the rod and use centrifugal force to cast lures or bait.

What type of fishing reel is best for beginners?

Spinning reels tend to be easier for beginners because they require less precision when casting than bait casting reels, making them more user-friendly.

How do you determine the size of fishing reel to use?

The size of fishing reel should depend on what type of fish you’re targeting and how much line capacity it needs in order to hold enough line when fighting larger species like salmon or steel head.

Are there any advantages or disadvantages to using an electric fishing reel?

Electric fishing reels are useful for those who have difficulty manually reeling in their catch due to physical limitations; however there are some drawbacks such as increased cost compared with manual versions plus added weight which could affect accuracy while casting if not balanced properly with rods designed specifically for electric models.

How can one properly care for and maintain their fishing reels over time?

To ensure longevity of your fishing equipment over time make sure all parts are clean after each use by wiping down exposed surfaces with mild soap/detergent then lubricating any moving parts periodically so they don’t become corroded or stuck due to lack of maintenance.

About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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